2009-07-30 / Family

Girls need strong female role models

According to educators and researchers, girls need strong female role models to succeed at school and in life. However, in the frenzied wake of national spectacles like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, a scarcity of intelligent and strong female role models appear in books, TV shows and music, which is causing increasing concern for parents and teachers alike.

A survey conducted last year by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in England found that inappropriate pop stars and celebrities topped the list of role models for adolescents. Driving home the problem was hotel heiress and reality TV star Paris Hilton, who came in sixth on the list.

"Sadly, far too many adolescent and teenage girls in the U.S. have lost the confidence and selfesteem they possessed in grade school," said Barry Hoffman, author, former grade school teacher of 30 years and father of three. "They are exposed to characters in contemporary literature and media who play second fiddle to male leads or are portrayed as weak and submissive, following teenage boys as if they don't have minds of their own."

Popular book and film franchises, such as the megasuccessful "Twilight" series, are touted as premier young adult entertainment. However, although "Twilight" has reached millions of tween and teenage girls, some criticize it for doing so without a strong, trustworthy and admirable female protagonist. The gothic story depicts a female teenager willing to dispose of her mortal life for the crush she has on her high school vampire boyfriend.

Many studies, issued by such organizations as the National Eating Disorders Association, Temple University, the Girl Scout Research Institute and others, show that girls are consistently faced with negative messages in popular culture, from nearunachievable body images to submissiveness.

Many of the messages promoted by fictional characters and media creations stand in stark contrast to current, real-life role models such as Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Meg Whitman and Oprah Winfrey.

"Parents and teachers need to provide adolescent girls with reading material that will empower and excite them, by showcasing female characters to whom they can relate. Unfortunately, there aren't enough books like this," said Hoffman, who is the author of the new young adult adventure novel, "Curse of the Shamra," which aims to present a healthy role model to adolescent girls through its fallible yet confident female protagonist.

Hoffman said that though opportunities for women are opening up, outdated thinking still persists when it comes to designated roles of men and women in popular culture, politics and business. Girls respond best to books with strong young female role models who can help them build self-esteem and confidence, said Hoffman.

This story is provided by State Point Media.

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